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The Rise of Occult Powers, AIDS and the Roman Catholic Church in Western Uganda

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image of Journal of Religion in Africa

Taking as my example a lay organisation of the Roman Catholic Church, the Uganda Martyrs Guild, which entered the public domain in western Uganda in the 1990s and started to organise witch and cannibal hunts, I offer two arguments to the ongoing debate on the rise of occult forces in Africa. First, against the tendency to find the origin of the rise of occult forces in the invisible hand of capital, I relate the dramatic activation and rise of occult forces in Africa to the large increase in death rates caused by the AIDS epidemic (and to a lesser extent local wars). Although various scholars have shown in detail that in Africa contemporary Christianity has not put an end to witchcraft and the occult, but instead provided a new context in which they make perfect sense, they missed the point that precisely the fight against the occult reproduces and strengthens the 'enemy'. As I try to show, Christian anti-witchcraft movements are instrumental in reinstating the occult powers they fight against.

Affiliations: 1: Institute for African Studies, University of Köln, Meister-Ekkehart-Str. 7, 50923 Köln, Germany


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